Blood bans are so 1983

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New court order keeps the donating status quo

Amanda Vindevoghel
Contributor

Since 1983 there has been a ban on sexually active gay men donating blood in Canada. While the debate concerning this controversial ban is hardly new, it has been brought to the forefront of our attention once again.

Toronto’s Kyle Freeman was recently ordered to pay $10,000 to Canadian Blood Services for failing to honestly declare his sexual history on the mandatory screening forms for blood donations. In reaction to this ruling, many groups across Canada have been protesting what they argue is an outdated ban.

The University of Regina’s own URPride held a blood donor clinic

“For Those Who Can’t.”  This effective protest encouraged friends, family, and other members of the community to donate blood in place of gay men who are banned from doing so. Unfortunately, not all groups have taken a productive approach; some have even called for a complete boycott on giving blood.

In speaking with Canadian Blood Services Spokesperson Ron Visina, it was evident that recent objections to the ban had not gone unnoticed.

“There are creative ways to voice your dissatisfaction without hurting patients,” Mr. Visina said. He also pointed out that the ban on gay men donating blood has been examined many times over the past years. 

In 2001 Canadian Blood Services hosted an International Consensus Conference regarding this issue, but there was not enough evidence to support a change.  Again in 2006, when new technological improvements had been made to screening processes, this policy was re-examined, but was ultimately kept in place.

Mr. Visina contendeds that until solid scientific evidence is available proving that the allowance of blood donations from sexually active gay men will not introduce incremental risk to patients receiving blood, a change cannot be made. He saidys Canadian Blood Services must give the louder voice to those receiving blood than to those giving it. While significant improvements to screening technology have been made since 1983, Mr. Visina claims there are still significant knowledge gaps that need to be filled.

Perhaps more research is needed to constitute an end to the ban, but URPride’s Executive Director, Lisa Smith, wonders why Canada is not among the several industrialized countries that are moving forward.  There are other groups that are also considered high risk but are not banned from giving blood.  She believes restrictions should be focused on high risk behaviors and not on sexual orientation.

Being able to donate blood is important.

“That’s why we want to do it,” states Smith.

URPride wants to bring awareness to this issue and that is exactly what they did through their donor clinic. 

She agrees that protesting this issue should not be detrimental to those who are in need of blood, and that a call to avoid giving blood entirely is unnecessary.

Support for an end to this ban was plentiful among U of R students.

“As long as [blood] is properly tested and proven to be safe, I don’t see why it should be any different,” stated third-year International Development student, Anna Dipple.

“It’s unfair that they are assuming that gay men are more likely to have AIDS just because they are gay,” argued Computer Science and Mathematics student Victoria Verlysdonk. 

“You can’t put a label on somebody and then ban them from doing something that could help somebody,” said International Studies student Kelston Mcgauley.

While the ban is currently still in place for gay men wanting to donate blood in Canada, the continuous advancement of technology and examples set forth by progressive nations who have abolished their own bans, brings hope for a future abolishment of our own.

7 comments

  1. Chelsea 7 October, 2010 at 15:40

    I think this story was incredibly well written and researched. The topic is relevant to everyone and this situation should be further looked into. Thank you for bringing this imporant story to the attention of the people in such an elequant manner.

  2. Dan Shier 8 October, 2010 at 02:11

    I just want to make some clarifying remarks regarding the article:
    – Our organization's name is "UR Pride Centre for Sexuality and Gender Diversity, Inc." or "UR Pride Centre" for short. (don't worry, we still have to send out a proper press release).
    – The Blood Donor Clinic held last week was hosted by the U of R, not the UR Pride Centre. UR Pride was promoting the CFS's "End the Blood Ban" campaign with our own "Please Donate for those who Can't" campaign.
    – To be a bit more specific, the Ban is directed at "Men who have sex with other Men" or MSM for short. This DOES include homosexual individuals, but it is more than just a "Gay" thing. This ban affects ALL men: bisexual, straight, etc.. A lot of people perceive MSM as Gay but it really is more of an umbrella term that affects any man regardless of their actual or perceived sexual orientation.

  3. Rhiannon 10 October, 2010 at 15:01

    Thanks Dan! So sorry we messed those details up. Maybe we can chat sometime about having you or someone else from UR Pride Centre confirm some facts with us for any future pieces on the Blood Ban issue before we run them.

  4. Dan Shier 11 October, 2010 at 01:05

    Hey no worries. I was talking to John and all of this just proves an even BIGGER point.
    The problem with the blood ban is that it IS so confusing. So much so that even we have to re-check our own sources to make sure we're on top of things. Everything from the MSM vs Gay ambiguity, who really IS in charge of the policies, where human rights fall and company policy prevail, etc..
    I DO love that I can access the Carillon online now and post comments directly towards articles 😀 Good Job!
    (PS: do you know why my face appears as an icon? I don't have an account set up with you guys… 😛 thats creepy. Also, I have submitting issues with the comment. It may be browser incompatibilities..)

  5. Amanda 14 October, 2010 at 21:20

    Thank you for clearing that up Dan.  I hope my mistakes didn't offend anyone.  This issue really is very complex, and I really appreciate your additional information 🙂

  6. TAYLOR 22 October, 2010 at 13:32

    I don't mean to sound closed minded, but I fail to see how the ban affecting "Men who have sex with other Men" is in any way unclear.

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